I wonder how many people have ever consumed or even thought about consuming acorns. I grew up in an area surrounded by oak trees but it never occurred to me that I could actually eat the acorns. Acorns are supposed to be for squirrels, right?
Well apparently, that is not the case and it certainly was not true in the past. There was a time when people saw the acorn as a perfectly viable source of food. And not only that, acorns actually confer a range of impressive health benefits including heart protection, blood sugar control, anti-inflammatory actions and digestive properties.
As everybody knows, acorns grow on oak trees. Each acorn contains an individual nut encased in an outer shell and are topped with a cupule where the branch is attached to the nut. The magnificent oak trees are commonly found around the Northern hemisphere and are valued for their appearance and sturdy wood.
If you live in the Northern part of the globe, you will be familiar with the sight of fallen acorns which are often ignored by man but sometimes hoarded by squirrels for winter.
Although acorns are not readily consumed these days, there was a time when they were viewed as a staple part of the diet in certain cultures. They still appear as an ingredient in local specialty dishes in some countries such as Korea.
Don’t pick them up and eat them raw. Acorns are very high in tannin content which gives them a very biter flavor. In order to neutralize the bitter taste, they should be soaked and boiled thoroughly before use. They can be used as a healthy substitute for coffee or ground up to make acorn flour and used as an alternative to regular flour in baking.
Health Benefits of Acorns
So why would anyone consider foraging for acorns and using them as a flour or coffee substitute?
Apart from the fact that they represent a very cheap option and many people enjoy foraging, there are some very real health benefits to gain from acorns. Let us take a look at some of the most important ones.
1. For Digestion
Being a nut, you would expect acorns to be full of fiber and you would be right. They contain high levels of fiber which can confer a number of benefits on your digestive system. The healthy fibers found in acorns can help add bulk to the stools and eliminate common issues like constipation or diarrhea.
Consuming more fiber can also help regulate bowel movements making them perfect for people plagued by irregular toilet visits and other conditions like bloating and cramps. There is also plenty of evidence that improving your digestive health can have a significant effect on your overall well-being and help prevent more serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
Adding more fiber to the diet can also help you manage your weight in the long term.
2. For Heart Health
Acorns are a good, healthy choice of nut for those wishing to cut back on their fat intake. Although most types of nut are beneficial to the health, they also tend to be high in fat. Acorns are considerably higher in unsaturated fat compared to saturated fat and this can help improve cholesterol levels and possibly even protect against heart diseases like atherosclerosis.
The potassium contained in acorns is also important for regulating healthy heart beat. Replacing saturated fats with more unsaturated fats not only protects the heart but can also help maintain a healthier body weight.
3. For Healthy Bones
Replacing your regular morning cup of coffee with a mineral rich alternative can help keep your bones strong and prevent bone disease.
Acorns contain an impressive variety of minerals including many which are great for the bones like calcium, potassium and phosphorus. Calcium is especially important for healthy bones by improving mineral density. There is a well known link between calcium deficiency and bone weakening diseases like osteoporosis.
4. For Blood Sugar Control
Being so rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, acorns can also help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent dangerous glucose spikes or plunges. This makes them a healthy option for people with diabetes or those simply wishing to maintain their blood glucose levels.
5. For Energy
Acorns contain a number of quite complex carbohydrates which can help provide more energy that lasts longer. Drinking acorn coffee or substituting acorn flour for your regular flour will provide you with more nutrition than the empty carbs and sugars that you might otherwise be consuming.
Instead of the short energy boost you usually get from sugars and carbohydrates nuts like acorns can provide you with a real energy lift
6. For the Metabolism
Acorns are a very rich source of the family of B vitamins and one of their most important roles is improving metabolic function. The B vitamins in acorns include thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and cobalamin which all contribute to numerous bodily functions and enzyme processes.
7. For The Skin
After a bit of basic preparation, you can use your acorns topically on the skin. They are beneficial for your skin in a variety of ways including their tannins which have astringent properties helping to keep the skin more supple and elastic.
To extract the tannins from your acorns, boil or soak a handful or so in water then apply the tannin-rich water to your skin. This can help soothe rashes, burns and irritations, speed up the healing of minor wounds and reduce inflammation. It is also possible to apply the acorn water to your muscles to relieve aches or pain.
How to make Acorn Coffee
So now that you know about their benefits, how should you go about using them? Probably the most popular way of using acorns is to make them into a nutritious coffee. The recipe is simple, costs nothing and can give you plenty of healthy benefits especially if you drink it as an alternative to your regular morning cup.
You will need a few handfuls of acorns to make several servings.
- Gather the acorns and boil them (including the shell) for around 20 minutes.
- Allow them to cool, then remove the outer shell.
- Peel off the outer skin.
- Split the acorns somehow. A large kitchen knife should do the job.
- Allow the split acorns to dry in a warm, dry area for 24 hours or so.
- Grind up your split acorns as finely as you can in a coffee grinder or blender.
- Put the ground acorns on a baking sheet.
- Place the sheet under the grill or roast in the oven until they are a dark brown color but make sure they do not burn.
- Add two or three tablespoons of your ground acorns to a cup and cover with boiling water just like you would make a regular coffee. Add milk or sugar to taste.
Boiling the acorns to make coffee can reduce the bitterness but it also reduces the level of tannic acid which can be toxic when acorns are eaten raw. Fortunately, the extreme bitterness from raw acorns would prevent most people from consuming dangerous toxic amounts.
Eating large amounts of raw acorns can result on extreme thirst, abdominal pains, constipation and frequent urination.
Are you a keen forager and have you ever made acorn coffee or flour? Let us know if you tried out our coffee recipe. Did you enjoy it and would you recommend it to others?